Tracing the Trend

Is foreign adoption just a celebrity trend, or a decision with practical advantages?

Claudia Lozano, photos by Jen Schultz |

Why are more people adopting internationally?

Fewer restrictions. Some adoption agencies that place Caucasian children do not accept single people, applicants over the age of 40, or homosexual couples.

More availability. In the mid 90s, fewer than 2 percent of unwed white mothers gave up their children for adoption. Compare this to 19.3% in 1973. 

Foreign connections. Ancestry and personal experience such as travel or military service can create a connection for some people to a certain country, culture, or race.

No strings attached. Many American states allow biological mothers to reclaim their infant for several months after birth.

Larger changes. A “historically unprecedented” willingness to adopt across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines.

Cost. According to one source, overseas adoptions can be cheaper, running $10,00 to $25,000, with U.S. fees running $15,000 to $50,000.

Why is Ethiopia in particular a popular place to seek adoption?

Ease. There is a growing awareness of the relative ease and clear legal framework of adopting from Ethiopia.

Compassion for the fallout of disease. HIV/AIDS is the main cause of orphaned children in Ethiopia, responsible for 800,000 of the estimated million orphans (numbers from 2008).

Stark numbers. A whopping 7% of the Ethiopian population is orphaned.

Acceptance. Ethiopia allows unmarried women to adopt children.